After nearly fifty years, I thought there wasn't anything more to be said, or any more books that could possibly be mined, from the original Star Trek...moreAfter nearly fifty years, I thought there wasn't anything more to be said, or any more books that could possibly be mined, from the original Star Trek. Hasn't that show been talked about, and examined to death, down to every last detail?
You'd think so. But then along came These Are The Voyages: Season One by Marc Cushman and it may be the best book yet about the production of the series and one of the best books ever written about any TV show. It's a shame the book is presented as yet another fan-written curio for the diehard trekker...because it's a must-read for students of television, and aspiring TV writers, regardless of whether they watched, or liked, Star Trek.
These Are The Voyages is an exhaustively detailed look at the writing and nuts-and-bolts production of every single episode, from the first, failed pilot onward. Everything in the book, like a TV series, starts with the scripts...and Cushman walks us through every draft and every change, whether they were prompted by creative issues, budgetary concerns, production issues, or network notes.
The author relies on extensive interviews with the show's surviving writers, producers, directors, and actors (and archival interviews with those who have passed away) and never-before-released memos, budgets, shooting schedules, and other internal documents. Best of all, Cushman manages to remain, with only a few slips, remarkably objective and scholarly about his subject, leaving the book refreshingly free of the kind of cringe-inducing, fannish drool that usually typifies books about "cult" shows and Star Trek in particular.
These Are the Voyages is a treasure trove of information and a fascinating look at how a TV show is written and produced...and all of the forces that shape it. I'm eagerly looking forward to the next two volumes(less)
I'm a big fan of Tom Franklin, but he can be uneven. Hell at the Breech and Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter are wonderful, Smonk was a miss-fire...and...moreI'm a big fan of Tom Franklin, but he can be uneven. Hell at the Breech and Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter are wonderful, Smonk was a miss-fire...and now comes "A Tilted World," co-written with his wife. Unfortunately, it's a disappointment. it's beautifully written, and the characters are vividly drawn, but they might as well be metaphors for the narrative itself... constantly plodding through the mud. This book is a long, slow slog. The real flood in this tale is the never ending, thick flow of exposition that kills the pacing and slows the story, such as it is, to a crawl. It's a plodding, over-written tale that never becomes compelling or, frankly, very entertaining. What this book needed was a strong editor and authors willing to make brutal cuts to get the story moving...and bring the characters to life.(less)
Ace Atkins flawlessly captures Parker's narrative voice and has produced the best Spenser novel in years. It reads like Parker in his prime, even with...moreAce Atkins flawlessly captures Parker's narrative voice and has produced the best Spenser novel in years. It reads like Parker in his prime, even without Hawk appearing in the book. There isn't a single false note in the plotting, character or voice. It's an astonishing feat. It's actually better, and truer to Parker and his characters, than the last few Spenser novels that Parker himself wrote. It's a shame Atkins can't take on Jesse Stone and Virgil Cole, too.(less)
This biography is almost as wild, compelling, dark and surprising as one of Dan J. Marlowe's books, which includes the classic [[ASIN:B0066P4ZFO The N...moreThis biography is almost as wild, compelling, dark and surprising as one of Dan J. Marlowe's books, which includes the classic [[ASIN:B0066P4ZFO The Name of the Game is Death]]. Charles Kelly has done an enormous amount of research and thoroughly knows his subject. What really sets this book apart from most literary biographies is the tight, novelistic approach he's taken to telling not only Marlowe's strange story, but also the tale of bank robber Al Nussbaum, who became Marlowe's collaborator. Marlowe fans will appreciate the fascinating, detailed look at the author as a person, as well as his complex relationships with his literary agent and two collaborators (William C. O'Dell and Nussbaum), but also the telling details behind the plotting and writing of his books, even those that never saw print. Highly recommended! (less)
The publishers of Ian Hamilton's The Disciple of Las Vegas: An Ava Lee Novel are attempting to position the book as Canada's answer to Steig Larssen a...moreThe publishers of Ian Hamilton's The Disciple of Las Vegas: An Ava Lee Novel are attempting to position the book as Canada's answer to Steig Larssen and, get this, Ian Fleming, which says a lot about Canadian thrillers...and none of it good. Imagine Jack Webb adapting The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and that will give you a sense of how "thrilling" this book is.
Ava Lee is a Toronto forensic accountant hired to recoup $65 million pilfered by a Vancouver executive working for a beer company in Manila. Oh, and she's a lesbian and a martial arts expert, not that either one of those aspects of her personality come into play at all...unless you count a brief fight and a couple of dull email exchanages with a stranger to arrange a blind date.
It's clear that Hamilton has no idea how to construct a thriller, much less a compelling story. The first hundred pages of this book are nothing but plodding, heavy-handed exposition without a shred of actual drama or conflict, all told without the slightest bit of style, wit, or fun.
Once the exposition finally lets up, the heroine spends her time flying from place to place, interviewing people, checking her email and making phone calls to tell other characters the boring things we already know. It's all about as action-packed and fun to read as a spreadsheet.
But the crippling problem with this listless story, beyond the exposition and repetition, is that there's no real conflict for Ava to confront or dramatic obstacles for her to overcome. The emotional and physical stakes aren't just low, they are non-existent for Ava and her clients who, to make matters worse, are depicted as thoroughly unlikeable and unworthy of her efforts.
So there is zero reason for the reader to care about what happens, and no rooting interest beyond, perhaps, wanting one-dimensional Ava to get her commission on the recovered money. That's not enough to motivate readers to slog their way through this book.
And they really shouldn't bother.
Nothing remotely interesting happens until page 218, but after ten surprisingly violent pages that offer some hope that things might finally start moving, the book falls right back into its deep, narrative slumber until the very end, a long and tiresome 130 pages later.
Ava may be a martial artist but she vanquishes her adversaries and overcomes her obstacles, what few insignificant ones there are, with phone calls rather than action. The climax of the book (and I'm being very generous calling it that) comes down to her making some phone calls to ask other people to make some phone calls, and then us hearing about those phone calls in some more phone calls. As if that wasn't enough fever-pitch phone call excitement, in the final confrontation with the bad guys, Ava offers to make one more phone call.
I suppose it's only fitting then that the epilog is Ava making some more phone calls and answering her emails.
Lisbeth Salander and James Bond, eat your hearts out.(less)
Robert Knott's IRONHORSE is not as good as Robert B. Parker's first two Virgil Cole novels, but it's better than his last one, which was truly awful o...moreRobert Knott's IRONHORSE is not as good as Robert B. Parker's first two Virgil Cole novels, but it's better than his last one, which was truly awful on just about every level. Knott doesn't have Parker's characters down at all (Cole makes many uncharacteristic, dull expository speeches in this book), and there's quite a bit of repetition, with the characters telling one another what we already know (a rookie mistake for newbie authors), and he doesn't capture Parker's lean style. But taken on its own merits, IRONHORSE is an enjoyable western none-the-less, with a fast-moving, twisty plot and some strong action. Bottom line: it doesn't come close to Ace Atkins' brilliant Spenser novel, which perfectly captured Parker's voice, nor was it as bad as Michael Brandman's execrable Jesse Stone books.(less)
Spent hours today absorbed in this remarkable, abundantly detailed and utterly compelling reference book that I highly recommend to any fan or admirer...moreSpent hours today absorbed in this remarkable, abundantly detailed and utterly compelling reference book that I highly recommend to any fan or admirer of McBain/Hunter and his voluminous work. The only downside for any writer reading this book is that afterwards you'll feel like a lazy-ass who hasn't produced nearly enough books and screenplays. (less)
It's a tragedy this book was marketed/packaged as a men's action adventure novel. Dennis was the real deal...these deserved to be recognized as straig...moreIt's a tragedy this book was marketed/packaged as a men's action adventure novel. Dennis was the real deal...these deserved to be recognized as straight-up noir. These novels pre-date Robert B. Parker's SPENSER series and yet are strikingly similar... Makes me wonder if Parker might have read one of the Hardmans at some point and it was percolating in his subconscious when he created his own series. Like Spenser, Hardman is an ex-cop turned investigator/bodyguard who lives by his own moral code and teams up often with a rough, violent African-American enforcer. He's also got a steady, loving girlfriend who understands, if not totally accepts, who he is and what he does (and isn't nearly as irritating as Susan Silverman), and a friend on the force (ala Belson and Quirk) who helps him out. He's also deeply tied in with the local mob bosses who have an understanding with him (again, like Spenser). And Atlanta, the city where Hardman lives, is a vivid character in the books (like Boston in the Spensers). The tone of the Hardmans is very different than the Spensers, and Spenser is far more moralistic, physically capable, smart-assy, and sure of himself than Hardman, but otherwise the franchise elements are almost identical. Ralph Dennis has a great voice, a wicked sense of humor, and a very sharp eye for detail. It's a damn shame this man never broke out into the big leagues. I loved this book and I am eager to devour the rest of this series.(less)
This is a complete, detailed history of the company and all of its animated and live action shows and feature films that reads like the transcripts of...moreThis is a complete, detailed history of the company and all of its animated and live action shows and feature films that reads like the transcripts of a series of unedited inteviews with Scheimer.
The plus side of that is that his character really comes through...you feel if you're having coffee with the guy over the course of several days. He's got lots of great stories to tell, and fascinating information to share, and he makes for lively company.
The downside of that is that he has a tendency to ramble, digress and get easily distracted. He takes some dead-end tangents and often starts some stories that he doesn't quite finish. For instance, he goes into great detail about the making of the Ghostbusters live-action show, and shares some wonderful anecdotes. He also says it was a big hit...but then doesn't explain why, if that was the case, it only lasted one season or what led to its cancellation.
The "it reads like a transcript," first-person construction makes the book unwieldy and frustrating at times...but that's more than made up for by the sheer wealth of information, memorable anecdotes, and tantalizing tidbits that you get. Like this one: they made a pilot for an animated, Saturday morning version of Quinn Martin's series Cannon, which starred William Conrad as a tough private eye. The animated pilot was called Young Cannon and would have been all about this fat kid solving crimes. I'd love to see that!
One of my favorite stories Scheimer tells is about a writer that the network didn't like -- so Scheimer fired the guy and hired a new writer that the network loved. In reality, Scheimer kept he same writer on and just had the guy put a pseudonym on the scripts. Scheimer also has some funny memories to share about Forrest Tucker and Larry Storch, who were big drinkers and started each shooting day of Ghostbusters drunk.
All in all, this is a highly enjoyable book that you don't have to be a Filmmation fan, or very familiar with all of the studio's shows, to appreciate.(less)
Jonathan Evison's WEST OF HERE is two books in one: a period western and a contemporary novel that evokes both Larry McMurtry and John Irving with col...moreJonathan Evison's WEST OF HERE is two books in one: a period western and a contemporary novel that evokes both Larry McMurtry and John Irving with colorful characters, amiable losers, dark-comic undertones and strong women. The story is set in the fictional, Washington town of Port Bonita, intercutting between its pioneering, hard-scrabble inhabitants in the late 1800s and their descendants (and other assorted characters) in 2006. It's a gimmick that could be just that but both halves work surprisingly well, and could stand on their own as individual novels. Evison also manages to balance drama and comedy, social commentary and social satire, without a stumble, while also juggling a touch of magical realism at the same time. It's a remarkable, highly entertaining, and invigoratingly original work.(less)
I was eagerly awaiting Roger Moore's Bond on Bond, figuring that he'd give us a unique, insider's perspective on the series. I was very wrong. This bo...moreI was eagerly awaiting Roger Moore's Bond on Bond, figuring that he'd give us a unique, insider's perspective on the series. I was very wrong. This book is a huge disappointment that offers nothing new...its simply a fluffy rehash of previously reported information, seemingly ghostwritten by someone else and interrupted with occasional, dull ancedotes from Moore that aren't nearly as interesting, or informative, as the Bond reflections he shared in his earlier, and far superior, autobiography My Word Is My Bond: A Memoir. There's no substance, no revelations, no telling details. It's reheated left-overs from earlier, tastier meals. Save your money and buy Moore's memoir instead.(less)
With the new Bond movie Skyfall coming out, there's a tsunami of 007-related books headed our way and I've been buying a bunch of them. The best so fa...moreWith the new Bond movie Skyfall coming out, there's a tsunami of 007-related books headed our way and I've been buying a bunch of them. The best so far is Jon Burlingame's The Music of James Bond. It's terrific, but I wouldn't expect anything less from the author of TV's Biggest Hits and an acknowledged expert in soundtrack music.
This book charts the evolution of every Bond score in a lively, breezily-written narrative that is as entertaining as it is informative. Everything you ever wanted to know about the scores, themes, and business behind the Bond music is here. Even if you aren't a Bond fan, this book is a revealing look at the business, marketing, and creative influences on how movie scores assigned and produced. It's a must-have reference and historical book for all Bond fans and soundtrack collectors that will have you listening to all the Bond albums again and searching YouTube and iTunes to listen to the many rejected theme songs. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, learned a lot, and hope that Jon will be updating it every few years...though I am still waiting for the sequel/update to TV's Biggest Hits!(less)